This post today isn’t directed to vegan or vegetarians. No, it is for the hosts who are expecting a guest with a restricted diet to come to their dinner. It could be Thanksgiving, Easter, or a Christmas dinner. I am talking less about what to serve and talking more about how to really make your vegan guests feel welcomed. Anyone who has to restrict their diet knows a thing or two about going to friend’s houses for food. It pretty much involves bringing their own food, and sneaking in a cliff bar.
So I made a list of the less obvious ways to serve an omnivorous dinner for anyone who have food restrictions. These are some of the things that I wish other people would do for me (or stop doing). Some are easy. Some steps are harder. Some break “normal” rules of politeness, but can cause a lot less stress in the end. It is also worth noting that these rules apply to vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or allergy sensitive guests. Since this is a vegan based site, I pretty much just use the word vegan more than any of the others.
Don’t Apologize for the Turkey
No one is telling you to take away the turkey, or the ham, or the gluten. If your family member or friend is a vegan, they know that you are not one. Any vegan is aware that other people eat meat, and know that dinner time is not the time to start sharing the terrors of factory farming. Pointing out that you are serving food that person can’t eat is sort of like saying “Sorry you can’t eat the better food.”
On the same note, don’t keep asking if the person got enough to eat. Ask once, then let it be. Because let me tell you, there is nothing that is more annoying than being singled out like that. I’ve had many well meaning hosts ask if I had enough to eat, then proceed to list things they could give me. Most of the time those foods are not actually vegan.
Don’t Make Two Versions of a Dish
Many people modify dishes for my dietary needs for family get togethers. That’s nice, except they make one version for themselves and one version for you. Here is an example, at a party a person decided to make an dish which was pretty much eggplant, onions, and feta cheese. They decided to put a small amount of eggplant and onions off to the side, for me, and then tossed the rest with the feta cheese. This situation made me feel like the vegan version was so boring and bland that no one would want it. So I was stuck eating the dish no one wants. The second part of the problem is that I now feel pressured to eat all or most of the dish. Because now everyone can see how much or how little I ate of it. Then the worst thought comes to mind- I might not have enough to eat!
The simple remedy is to just pick some vegan dishes. This might be a challenge but you can find tons of recipes online. Or you can see if you local library has a vegan cookbook. I view it like this- you can either make brussel sprouts and bacon and leave some plain brussel sprouts on the side. Or you could make balsamic vingared roasted brussel sprouts that everyone can eat and enjoy.
Ask Your Guest to Bring Something!
I know this is considered by conventional rules to be rude. But if your guest is vegan or has food allergies, they might understand that you might not know what you are doing. And they might be happy to supply a vegan cake or a protein rich vegan dish. Truthfully, your guest might be relieved and will be happy to bring a dish they know would convince people that vegan food is good food.
If you are afraid of coming off as rude, simple tell your friend that you are afraid that you might mess up, and you would feel more comfortable that they would have a “back up” dish they know they can eat. It is likely that your friend has a go-to dish to bring to dinners.
Do Research and Ask Questions
I kind-of hope when I am invited to parties and dinners people will look up veganism to learn about it. Not many people do. This can be an inconvenience to vegans, but it can be deadly when people have allergies. I have a friend who is allergic to gluten, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and many other foods. Even simple seasonings would contain all of those ingredients. So don’t be afraid to ask about some specifics.
And no one is asking for you to google videos of cows being slaughtered. Nope, just to take a look at lists of forbidden ingredients. Heck, not many people know that veganism isn’t the same of vegetarianism. The easy answer is that a vegan doesn’t eat meat, cheese, or eggs. It might slip your mind that it would include fish, honey, gelatin, or lard.
Your Guest Will Forgive You for Slip Up
No matter what, if you try and make a vegan meal your guest will give you A for effort. You might mess up a step. Fine. You might accidentally grab chocolate chips with milk fat in them. Know what? It happens to vegans all the time, even people who have been doing it for years. We use pretty much everything in animals, and in ways you wouldn’t even think of. Did you know that secretions of beavers are used for vanilla flavoring/scents? Probably didn’t. No, not every bottle of vanilla extract have beaver juices. Some red dyes are from bugs. These are the things I wouldn’t stress about, especially since your Vegan guest might not know about it yet.
Don’t Sneak in Meat to “Prove a Point”
Your vegan guest might be annoying. But it isn’t cool to try and prove that meat is delicious. Or that Katie REALLY isn’t allergic to peanuts. No one is denying that bacon and peanuts are not delicious. They are. But trying to put your guest in a taste test is pretty much wrong. To make things worse is that vegan meat replacements are getting better. Some are obviously different, some are down right near exact.
By sneaking in meat, gluten, or an allergen you could be harming a person, giving them horrible night on the can, or just defying their trust. It is one thing to not know any better, and ignoring someones request.
Plan 3-4 Vegan Sides
Not sure how much to make vegan? Think about making 3 vegan or allergy friendly sides. It is understandable that you might have a hard time finding things, or don’t want to buy too many new ingredients. Generally I find blogs like Oh She Glows really good for recipes with no-fussy ingredients. You don’t need to buy faux cheese or soy meats.
There are even foods call “accidentally vegan.” That means the producers didn’t intend for the products to be marketed to vegans. PETA has a large list of foods, that you could buy and skip having the cook from scratch. Some examples are oreos, Pillsbury original crescent rolls, Sara Lee cherry pie, and more.
An easy way to find foods you need? Certain stores label their brands as gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free etc. And some common allergens will be listed on the back. If you see “may contain traces of…” that means you should be fine, unless your guest tells you otherwise (IE extreme allergies or someone with celiacs)
Enjoy the Night!
We vegans don’t bite. And we really aren’t terrible people. You putting forth the extra efforts to include us in the meal is greatly appreciated. If you want to talk about animal rights, then we will. But if you don’t that’s fine too. We won’t judge and we know not to be preachy. Some stereotypes are true, but some are not.